Coveted and prestigious grant to NMBU researcher

By Jayne P Lambrou

Portett av Aida Cuni-Sanchez
Portett av Aida Cuni-SanchezPhoto: X.D. Perarnau

Tropical forest researcher, Aida Cuni-Sanchez is amongst the chosen few that is set to receive a substantial grant from the European Research Council (ERC).

The ERC recently announced the recipients of this year’s ERC Consolidator Grant. Nine of the 81 applications submitted by researchers in Norway were awarded funding, including the one from Aida Cuni-Sanchez.

‘Many of the measures that are taken to protect tropical forests entail the exclusion of the local community. Nature reserves and protected areas are guarded like fortresses, resulting in a denied  livelihood for the people living in the area,’ says Cuni-Sanchez, associate professor at the Faculty of Landscape and Society (NMBU).

The grant will enable her project AFRI-FOR to conduct research on balanced, sustainable management of tropical forests.

Can reduce poverty

The research will involve field work in Cameroon, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and Uganda.

‘We will study the possibilities for sustainable hunting and gathering in tropical forest conservation areas, to enable the indigenous people and other locals to use some of the forests’ resources to climb out of poverty,’ says Cuni-Sanchez.

The goal is to find the right balance between financial opportunities for the poor and indigenous peoples, preserving biodiversity, sustainable hunting and gathering, and safeguarding the forests’ carbon storage potential.

The project will take an interdisciplinary approach, covering plant ecology, ethnobiology, sociology, anthropology and market analysis. The knowledge and methods derived from the research will be applicable to many other tropical forest areas.

Targeted efforts to attract more applications

ERC grants are sought-after, and the projects that make the cut are of exceptionally high scientific quality.

‘ERC grants must be the most coveted research funding in the European context. We congratulate and are very proud of what Aida Cuni-Sanchez has accomplished,’ says Curt Rice, Rector of NMBU.

The project will run over five years and has been awarded a EUR 2 million ERC Consolidator Grant. Consolidator Grants are awarded to merited researchers from across the world with at least seven years’ experience since completing their PhD.

This is the second time in two years that an ERC grant has been awarded to researchers at Noragric, a department for international environment and development studies, located at the Faculty of Landscape and Society. For NMBU, it's the fourth grant.

‘This is yet another feather in the cap of the Faculty of Landscape and Society. It also proves that the targeted efforts made by NMBU’s research department in recent years to increase the number of ERC applications has paid off,’ says Rice.

Faculty Dean, Eva Falleth, congratulates Aida on an exciting and important ERC project.

‘Aida has excelled as an ardent and creative researcher. I am very proud of and impressed by first of all Aida, but also by the academic group at her institute, Noragric.'

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